2017 is shaping up to be the biggest year ever for the Yakuza series in the west. SEGA’s long-running series managed to find a new surge in popularity thanks to the power of the PS4’s Share functionality, and the ridiculous script of Yakuza 0. Fans wanting to know how Kiryu and Majima’s adventure continues won’t have to wait long, as Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the 2005 original, is releasing this August. PlayStation LifeStyle got a chance to play a work-in-progress build of the english release, and the remake is looking impressive so far.
The biggest, and most immediately noticeable, improvement upon the original is that it’s using the same engine as Yakuza 0. That’s a huge upgrade from the PS2 original, and the Japan-only HD remaster that released on PlayStation 3 and Wii U. That means there are limited loading screens, players have the freedom of rotating the camera, and it looks like a modern day release.
The Yakuza 0 roots are seen in other areas, too. For example, Kiryu has all four of his combat stances from the prequel, including the unlockable Dragon style. These fighting styles can all be upgraded via a skill tree, although this time around players won’t be spending money to unlock new fighting abilities. Instead, they’ll use experience points that they earn from side-quests and other activities.
One benefit of the remake is that plenty of Yakuza 0‘s mini-games return. As someone who spent way too many hours playing the slot car racing, I dreaded the thought that it’d be gone in Kiwami. Thankfully, that’s not the case, as SEGA has taken some liberties with this remake, and have added a bunch of side activities that weren’t in the original PS2 release. This helps to make this remake feel like a new experience, even for the hardcore fans that have been with the series since day one.
Another way it’ll differentiate itself is with its new “Majima Everywhere” system. This feature will have the crazed Goro Majima popping up in the strangest of places (during the demo, he popped his head out of a manhole), and then challenge Kiryu to a fight. Similar to the Mr. Shakedown fights in 0, Majima offers up quite the challenge. While I was able to dodge many of his attacks, I just wasn’t powerful enough to defeat him. One cool touch is that Majima will use moves from all four of his fighting styles in Yakuza 0, which I got a real kick out of.
Return to Kamurocho
The original Yakuza featured an expensive localization effort by SEGA, and they even got Mark Hamill to voice Majima. After the game ended up underperforming, SEGA switched to using the Japanese dub for all of the sequels. That’s the same case here, although the voicework has been re-recorded to ensure that the quality is up to today’s standards.
While there are new features in Kiwami, anyone who played Yakuza 0 will likely feel some déjà vu while running around the streets of Kamurocho. This isn’t a bad thing, especially since 0 was excellent, but it coming mere months afterwards might be too much of a good thing in a short period. Thankfully, it seems like SEGA knows this, as the price point for the remake will be half the price of 0 in North America. That $29.99 price tag is definitely hitting a sweet spot, and should hopefully tempt some new people into giving the series a try.
Yakuza Kiwami is everything that a good remake should be. Not only does it modernize the gameplay, it also manages to add new content that’ll make it worth playing for those that already played the PS2 original. The new “Majima Everywhere” feature is hilarious, and helps add some variety to Yakuza‘s standard gameplay. 2017’s double dose of Yakuza is definitely a good thing.
Yakuza Kiwami is set to release August 29, 2017 for PlayStation 4. Previewed on PS4.